Madam Speaker, at the outset I wish to advise that I will support this initiative by my Reform colleagues and will vote in favour of it.
I will endeavour to take a different approach in my remarks in support of this position. I am pleased to address the House on this motion for a bill of rights for victims because it is crime that creates victims. I take this opportunity to look at the collective measures all sections of society can take to give further importance to the prevention of crime and victimization.
Crime prevention, particularly through social development and multi-disciplinary approaches, addresses the underlying causes of criminality and victimization and can provide long term safety and security.
In Canada the need to prevent crime meaningfully is mobilizing every sector of society, starting with citizens and the grassroot organizations, service providers, the private sector and all levels of government.
No country or community is immune from crime and its devastating effects. However, a growing body of knowledge is emerging with respect to comprehensive strategies, and this information can assist communities that want to take action. There is knowledge on how to mobilize our institutions and our citizens and develop a partnership effort on assessing social, situational and other factors associated with crime, planning and co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary approach.
For a crime prevention plan to be truly representative and responsive to local crime problems, the community should be involved at all stages and in all aspects. It has been established that the greater the degree of community participation and solidarity in addressing social and crime related problems, the higher the level of urban security.
The need for close co-operation between governments and communities and for the establishment of broad coalitions of all those concerned with crime problems cannot be stressed strongly enough.
A meaningful strategy for the prevention of crime and victimization encompasses four key elements. First, crime prevention through social development consists of a comprehensive approach to systemic crime prevention through social development which targets the combination of social, personal, educational and economical factors which place individuals at risk and contribute to crime.
Our research suggests the various aspects and causes of criminal behaviour share common characteristics such as personal, familial and social breakdown. A social intervention approach, which seeks actions through policies, programs and services already present in the social development field such as social housing, health, education, income security and social services, may lessen the factors which may lead a person to crime.
The second is crime prevention through community mobilization. The involvement of all sectors of the community in the
planning and implementation process of crime prevention strategies must be an integral part of crime prevent. Community safety and crime prevention strategies should address factors associated with the prevention of crime and the needs and priorities identified by their communities.
Third, situational crime prevention strategies or opportunity reduction approaches such as neighbourhood watch, block parents and crime prevention through environmental design have considerable potential for reducing crime in Canada. Most police agencies have established crime prevention units which promote various community based programs aimed at reducing opportunities for a specific crime such as vandalism, theft and break and enter. However, such programs have limits, especially over the long term, as offenders become displaced to other areas or choose to commit other types of crime.
The fourth is effective justice approaches. The maintenance and improvement of a fair and equitable criminal justice system is the foundation to effective crime prevention. Actions such as the control of firearms, the recognition that spousal abuse and child abuse are crimes and that timely responses to young offenders through appropriate and effective legislation and enforcement will help to ensure that crime prevention is a reality.
Crime prevention targeted to the social causes of crime requires a longer term and less visible effort than does catching perpetrators or installing mechanical devices. Their concept requires a new approach, where the belief that it can be done accompanies the commitment to make it happen. More can be done to prevent crime by interceding in practical ways and through social development situations.
Key research on the benefits of crime prevention through social development must be brought to the attention of all concerned citizens, communities and the media. Canada has taken an important step in putting greater emphasis on crime prevention by developing a national strategy on community safety and crime prevention. This took place following a major consultation with stakeholder groups, through an in depth examination by a parliamentary standing committee and through a national symposium.
The national strategy is a broad framework of action which brings together a number of partners and a special focus on the development of information and tools to help communities develop and implement specific measures to meet its needs.
The strategy was developed in close co-operation with stakeholders, including provinces and territories, which are primarily responsible for many aspects of crime prevention and which contribute to individual and community safety, such as education, health, social services and the administration of justice.
Measures implemented on the national strategy by governments and by non-governmental organizations include greater co-ordination and communications, public education and awareness, enhancing knowledge, support to communities, incorporating crime prevention legislation and official mandates and developing innovative funding strategies.
The establishment of a National Crime Prevention Council in July 1994 was a key element of the national strategy. This body is made up of 25 members from a variety of disciplines, including education, social work, police, victims, private sector, criminologists, public health, and so on. It serves as an adviser to governments and a central co-ordination and information sharing structure to unify crime prevention efforts and develop practical solutions for communities.
The mandate of the council is very broad and reflects the fact that Canada is only beginning to understand what can be done to define the prevention of crime and victimization and help communities become safer places.
The National Crime Prevention Council has adopted social development as the most effective approach to crime prevention. Children and youth are their key priorities, as a focus on early prevention is the means to prevent victimization and criminal behaviour later on.
It is developing prevention strategies that address the underlying factors associated with crime, such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate parenting, family violence, lack of opportunities, systemic discrimination. Its members believe that the long term solution lies in targeting services and resources that diminish the effects of hardship and disadvantage and that provide children with the best possible opportunity to fulfil their potential. The positive results from these actions will benefit society in many ways and will assist in reducing the rates of crime and victimization.
The council's work also includes looking at measures aimed at strengthening families to safeguard children at risk. Earlier work has pointed to the need for such measures to be comprehensive and implemented at the national and international levels.
These measures should focus on mitigating the situation of dysfunctional families or families characterized by erratic, absent or excessive discipline, a high probability of mistreatment and a lack of positive role models. Early intervention can help put an end to the cycle whereby child abuse and the delinquency associated with such abuse is passed on from generation to generation.
While the national strategy for community safety and crime prevention and the national council are at early stages, I believe that this work is very promising and that we have taken a decisive
step toward safer communities. This is the type of work that in the long term will prevent victimization.
As I indicated to our Reform colleagues, a positive and constructive initiative such as this can and will be supported by this member and can and will be supported by this Liberal government.